The opportunity cost of conflicts in the Middle East since 1991 is 12 trillion dollars, says a new research report [6-page pdf] on the Cost of Conflict in the Middle East by Strategic Foresight Group, a leading Asian think-tank. [related Youtube video. See also agenda for International Workshop on Cost of Conflict in the Middle East - 11-page pdf]
For the first time in 60 years, the report presents a comprehensive assessment of costs of various conflicts in the Middle East on 97 different parameters- from the social to psychological and economic to environmental. Supported by the Governments of Switzerland and Norway, the AK Party of Turkey and Qatar Foundation, the Strategic Foresight Group involved over 50 leading experts and leaders from the region to gather input for the report.
If the conflict in the Middle East had been resolved in 1991 at the time of the Madrid peace process, almost all families in the Arab world as well as Israel would be enjoying double the per capita income they have today. Iraq’s GDP would have been $300 billion instead of $59 that it is expected to be in 2010.
The environmental costs are staggering. The First Gulf War accounts for 10 million barrels of oil spilt into the sea and 45 million barrels spilt in the Kuwait desert. In a future war, if the volume of spilt oil doubles to 100 million barrels per day, it would equal 1 day’s oil supply for the world. Similarly, a future conflict in the Middle East could account for more carbon emissions than of an industrialized country such as the UK.
The Palestinian people have lost over 100 million man hours waiting at the checkpoints between Ramallah and Jerusalem since 2000. At present there are more than 11,000 Palestinians in Israeli Detention Centers. The unemployment in Gaza reached over 50% with the suspension of 95% of the industrial operations even before the December 2008 attack by Israel.
Israel’s costs are also significant in human and psychological terms with the country suffering over than 34000 missile attacks since 2000. Almost 1000 Israeli citizens have lost their lives during the same period and 123 minors have been killed in attacks on cafes, schools and buses. More than 90% of Israelis live in fear.
The report argues that a comprehensive peace agreement would make a number of projects feasible including gas deals, railway lines and the much talked about Red-Dead Sea Canal. It would also provide peace dividends to all the countries in the region, including $4429 per year per Israeli household, $500 per Egyptian household and $1250 per Jordanian family.
The report by Strategic Foresight Group does not suggest solutions for peace. It outlines four scenarios as to what could be the impact of various policy options.